Lawns have become a status symbol, and people take pride in having a lush, green, perfectly mowed lawn. However, an immaculate yard doesn’t support the diverse life needed for a healthy environment. That’s why it’s so important to consider non-toxic lawn care.
Not only will an eco-friendly lawn help you protect our planet, but it will also create a beautiful and inviting place that’s easy to take care of. Discover how protecting the environment can start right in your own front yard with these non-toxic lawn care tips.
Why Is Non-Toxic Lawn Care So Important?
A lot of people don’t think twice about the environmental impact of their lawn. After all, grass is a plant, so they figure it must be helping the environment more than it’s hurting. Unfortunately, that’s not case.
In the United States alone, more than 40 million acres of land are covered in grass. That makes grass the single largest irrigated crop in the country.
Taking care of that grass requires A LOT of resources, including 200 million gallons of gas for mowing, 3 trillion gallons of water, and 70 million pounds of pesticides every year. Maintaining home lawns actually ends up producing more greenhouse gases than grass absorbs.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of wasting all that time and money turning your yard into something that hurts the environment, you can use it as a place for biodiversity and water conservation.
1. Grow Native Plants and Flowers
The first step in non-toxic lawn care is letting more native plants, flowers, and grasses grow in your yard.
The majority of American lawns are either ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass. Despite their names, these aren’t native to the country. Since they’re non-native, these grasses crowd out native grasses, flowers, and plants that are essential for the survival of birds and crucial pollinators, such as bees.
Growing native plants and flowers can create a beneficial domino effect in your local ecosystem. The plants provide food for the bugs that depend on it, which in turn provide food for other animals and restores the biodiversity lost when non-native plants takeover.
Even better, once established, native plants require very little maintenance because they’re acclimated to local climate and rainfall amounts and resistant to local pests and diseases.
Growing native plants is also one of the best ways to attract bees to your yard and create a sanctuary for these important insects.
It’s important to remember that every state and region has different native plants, so you’ll want to check with your state’s Native Plant Society to find the right species for your area.
2. Consider Grass Alternatives
If you love looking out the window and seeing a lush, green yard, you don’t have to give that up to have an eco-friendly lawn. Instead, consider making the switch to a grass alternative.
There are several types of ground covers you can use instead of grass, and they all offer different advantages over traditional grass lawns. Most ground covers are low-growing plants, which means you don’t have to spend as much time mowing them.
Moss is a good option for shady areas and can stay green even during the heat of summer. Flowering ground covers like horned violets, sweet woodruff, and liriope also do well in shaded areas and bring a splash of color to your yard.
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Clover is an excellent ground cover that can grow in a variety of climates. This pollinator-friendly blend mixes tall fescue, fine fescue, and clover to create a lush lawn that helps you, pollinators, and the environment.
It’s low-maintenance, eco-friendly, and offers so many outstanding benefits it’s easy to see why so many people are switching to it. A clover lawn feels soft under your feet and requires fewer nutrients than grass.
In addition to requiring less water than grass, clover is also drought-tolerant and can remain green even if it doesn’t get a lot of rain. It naturally crowds out weeds, which means you don’t have to use any weed killers to keep them away.
Important pollinators like bees and butterflies absolutely love clover. Best of all, it’s inexpensive!
3. Downsize Your Lawn
The bigger your lawn, the more water and chemicals you need to use to keep it looking nice. You can still have a beautiful lawn even if you shrink its overall size.
While downsizing your lawn might take a little work at first, you’ll end up with something that’s good for the environment and requires less work to maintain.
In addition to expanding flowerbeds that hold more native plants and switching to grass alternatives, here are a few other ways you can downsize your yard:
- Install a xeriscape: A xeriscape is a type of landscape that requires little to no irrigation to survive. This is a great way to conserve water and reduce chemical fertilizer and pesticide use.
- Create a rock garden: Like a xeriscape, rock gardens requires little water, chemicals, or work to maintain.
- Use permeable hardscapes: Solid hardscapes, like a concrete driveway, increase rainwater runoff. Permeable hardscapes, such as decomposed granite, let water pass through the surface and into the soil.
4. Encourage a Deep Root Lawn
A healthy lawn doesn’t need as many chemicals as a lawn that’s struggling to survive. However, in order to get a healthy lawn, you have to help your grass develop a deep root system.
The best way to get your grass to grow deep roots is with proper watering techniques. If you’re not watering correctly, your grass won’t develop the roots it needs to survive without chemicals.
Fortunately, it’s actually very easy to water your grass the right way. First, you want to water less often but for a longer period of time. Watering too often and for a short period of time encourages shorter grass roots.
Second, you want to water in the early morning before 10 a.m. Watering after 10 a.m. will just lead to a lot of water loss through evaporation.
However, you also don’t want to water at night after the sun goes down. This just creates a long-lasting moist environment that attracts pests and disease.
5. Overseed Your Lawn
If your lawn begins to thin and develop patches, you shouldn’t ignore the problem. Weeds can begin to grow in the patchy areas, which might result in more chemical herbicide use to get rid of them.
Overseeding your lawn is one of the best and easiest ways to encourage healthy grass since thick grass is better able to battle weeds without the need for toxic chemicals. Yet it’s also one of the most frequently overlooked tricks.
The best time to properly overseed a warm-season lawn is in early spring. If you have a cool-season lawn, the proper time to overseed it is in early fall.
6. Stop Using Pesticides
Pesticides have been directly linked to the alarming decrease of bee, frog, and bat populations. Around 90% of flowering plants depend on bees and other pollinators to survive, and this includes a lot of the food we eat.
By switching to a practice called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), you can control unwanted pests in a way that’s safe and sustainable. This practice prioritizes the health of people and the environment and only resorts to pesticides when absolutely necessary.
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IPM uses a combination of pest management techniques to naturally make your lawn less appealing to pests. This can include attracting beneficial insects (like ladybugs and praying mantises) and growing native plants that are naturally resistant to pests.
7. Ditch the Fertilizer
A lot of lawn care service providers will tell you to dump a lot chemical fertilizers on your lawn to make it look its best. While these synthetic fertilizers might give you a green lawn, they’re also having a massively negative impact on the environment.
Conventional fertilizers emit harmful greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Quick-release fertilizers also strip the soil of its nutrients and promote diseases, making your yard dependent on the exact harmful chemicals that are causing the damage in the first place.
Instead of becoming dependent on traditional fertilizers that are filled with toxic chemicals, the best option is to completely eliminate the use of fertilizer. However, if you need to use one, switch to an organic fertilizer that promotes a healthy ecosystem.
You want to use an organic lawn fertilizer during the right time of year to prevent runoff pollution. As long as your lawn is healthy, you typically don’t need to fertilize more than once per year.
8. Start Composting
Composting offers so many amazing benefits for your yard and the environment. When you compost your food scraps, you’re preventing food waste from ending up in the landfill where it will rot and release methane gas.
Composting also produces natural, free fertilizer that’s amazing for your yard and garden.
Fortunately, it’s incredibly easy to start composting. If you have no idea how to start, this post goes over everything you need to know about composting.
You can create a compost pile in the corner of your yard. Or, if you prefer to keep it out of sight, you can use a compost tumbler.
For convenience, keep a small bin on your kitchen counter to hold fruit and vegetable scraps. Once the bin is full, toss the scraps in your tumbler or pile, add some water, and mix in dry materials like brown leaves, wood shavings, brown paper, and cardboard.
Then simply walk away and let Mother Nature do her thing. In just a few months, you’ll have rich, nutritious compost ready to use in your garden and around your yard.
9. Switch to Eco-Friendly Lawn Tools
Gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed eaters produce carbon monoxide emissions that are just as harmful to you as they are to the environment.
In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that mile-for-mile gas-powered lawn mowers produce about 11 times more pollution than a new car. This means operating a single gas-powered mower for one hour produces nearly the same emissions as a 100-mile car trip.
Instead of dealing with the hassle of gas-powered lawn equipment, make the switch to electric mowers and other tools. You can choose between corded and battery-powered tools. Corded tools need an electrical outlet to operate, and cordless tools use a rechargeable battery.
Not only are electric lawn tools lighter, quieter, and emissions-free, but they’re also easier to maintain since you don’t have to replace air filters, oil, or spark plugs.
Related: 10 Must-Have Tools Every Gardener Needs
10. Use a Rain Barrel
Reducing water consumption is a critical part of natural lawn care, especially if you live in an area that has water supply shortages, regular droughts, or a dry climate. In the U.S., landscape irrigation accounts for around one-third of all residential water use, equaling about 9 billion gallons per day.
Installing a rain barrel at your house can help you conserve water and minimize stormwater runoff. The easiest place to install a rain barrel is under a gutter’s downspout.
Simply trim enough off the downspout so the barrel can fit underneath and start collecting rainwater. Keep in mind that lifting the rain barrel off the ground will use the power of gravity to make it easier and faster to get the water out.
So you might need a rain barrel stand or cement blocks to accommodate the weight of the barrel and water.
I also highly recommend using these mosquito dunks so you can safely ensure your yard is mosquito-free.
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You can use the rainwater you collect to water your plants, flowers, and vegetable gardens. Rain barrels can harvest a surprising amount of water. Every inch of rain that falls on one square foot of roof can become 0.6 gallons of water.
For example, if you have a 150-square-foot section of roof draining into a rain barrel, you’ll receive up to 45 gallons of rainwater from just a half-inch of rainfall!
11. Use Organic Mulch
Mulch offers your yard numerous benefits. It’s great for weed control, regulates soil temperature, helps retain moisture in healthy soil, and reduces and controls erosion. However, you should always choose organic mulch over inorganic mulch.
Inorganic mulch doesn’t contain plant-based material and typically consists of shredded rubber or rocks. Examples of organic mulch include wood chips, shredded bark, pine needles, leaves, and other types of organic matter.
Organic mulch is a key part of non-toxic lawn care because it offers even more advantages. It enhances plant health, builds biodiversity, reduces the need for fertilizer, and increases the soil’s microbes. Plus, organic mulch has the added bonus of adding nutrients to the soil as it breaks down.
In addition to mulching your flower beds, don’t forget to mulch around your trees. If you mulch under trees to the drip line, you can not only help the root area retain moisture, but you can also reduce the footprint of your lawn.
Chemical-Free Lawn Care for a Healthier Yard
Conventional lawn care ideas say you need to use a ton of harmful chemicals and toxic substances to have the perfect yard. However, we’re now beginning to realize that the quest for lush, green grass in our yards is destroying our environment.
An eco-friendly lawn is also a low-maintenance lawn, and it provides a host of benefits you’ll love. You’ll have a healthy yard and more time to actually be outside enjoying it.
Although fighting climate change and protecting biodiversity may seem like a overwhelming task, you can get started in your own front yard when you use these non-toxic lawn care tips to help create an eco-friendly lawn.
More Helpful Tips for Eco-Friendly Living
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